Cy’s 100 Favorite Albums of 2019
80. Jared Jenkins – The Novice
So… another album that sort of just landed on my lap. I don’t exactly know what I was expecting. Whatever it was, it was not this! It’s labelled a pop album. Okay, I’ll concede that point. But there’s so much depth to this. Vocally, Jenkins is comparable to everyone on-trend right now. Shades of the likes of Usher and Mario. The music is effervescent, true pop at its best. Though his vocal strength does add dimension, and some of the creative choices (the intro, the vocal layering of the Dreamin’ interlude) make it a cut above a lot of pop that’s out there. A pleasant surprise toward the end of 2019!
79. Toro y Moi – Outer Peace
Outer Peace is so much funkier than Toro‘s most recent releases. A carefreeness that hasn’t been present since some of his earlier work. However, there’s something so very uniquely Chaz, something that had him the leading proponent of the lo-fi/funk/nu-disco movement that saw an astounding surge when he first came on the scene. Amazing, lush, fun, and damn funky. Absolutely adore this album!
78. Sampa the Great – The Return
Where has Sampa the Great been all my life?! This woman has a voice! When I say that I don’t mean, Ooo, girl you can SANG! (which is also a truth in and of itself). No. I mean this woman doesn’t speak. She roars. Her confidence. Her sense of self. Her fearlessness. She’s iconic even without the tag to her name. The Return is a glorious album full of pride, joy, honesty, and just damn good music!
77. P!nk – Hurts 2B Human
Dear GOD have I ever missed this woman! P!nk charges back on to the sene with a monster album. The album certainly paints the picture of the pain of being human in a world where true humanity is undervalued. The tug-of-war of love, the pain of loneliness, the revelation of how love can heal and give life. From top to bottom this is a work of art, which gifts us one of her most gorgeously constructed pieces to date. Shades of Imogen Heap’s Hide and Seek and nods to Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car create one of the most ethereal pieces of work P!nk’s ever created in 90 Days (featuring the heartache of singer Warbel’s voice).
This is a very visceral piece of work, as is everything the songstress has released post-debut. She set out to create art when unconsciously being given the pop star mask to wear. This is just another in a collection of commendable work from someone who continues to reinvent herself and dig deep within herself for the answers to her own demons. A woman who defines every day for herself what it means to be human. And, yes, sometimes it does really hurt.
76. SHIROSKY – The Seed
Let me just say this. SHIROSKY is a gift! Her work is complex, gorgeous. She knows how to wrap layers of emotion into music that at its core is really simple. The Seed is sensual. Moody. Emotional. This is the type of electronic-inspired R&B that I adore. There’s so much between the cracks, in the silent moments of air and anticipation, that the music swells fuller than what its digital confines suggest.
75. Kelsey Lu – Blood
There’s an incredible purity in the music. Kelsey Lu’s voice doesn’t ask for permission. It doesn’t seek approval. She sings with confidence and a strong mastery of creaking softness — an old house full of memories and battered by harsh winds. The music itself offers the listener room, enough room to live in it and embrace everything it has to offer. Lyrically, she’s a true painter. She puts so much of her soul onto this canvas, and we can see each crack in the acrylic, each movement of every brushstroke. Gorgeous work that just sits in the soul comfortably.
74. James Blake – Assume Form
I’ve only listened to James Blake a handful of times over the years. Why, oh why, haven’t I paid more attention to him?! Based on composition alone I should’ve followed this man from the very first note he laid on wax (or digitally, as it were). He’s a marvel of musicianship, using traditionally classical sounds and melding them with frayed edges and sharp angles. It’s gorgeous in its discordant tones. The use of several hip hop artists adds so much more dimension (if that’s possible) and texture to a sound that’s already faceted with cracks, crags, and colorful lines.
73. DECADENT – Lingu/Talus
This is a bittersweet addition. Made even more bitter with the passing of the band’s sound engineer, Song Jiwon. As DECADENT‘s last official release before their official split in July, it shatters me that two new songs are the last we’re going to get from them.
That being said, what a damn way to go! There’s a thicker, grittier cut to the music on this EP. No less polish or impeccable musicality, but there’s certainly something a bit grimier in the intent. Though a short piece of work, it shows yet another dimension of the foursome. That when they want to, they can get down in the dirt and just rock the fuck out! Also… it’s an intelligent piece of music (parallels between setting up in the solitary isolation of the studio vs. performing in a crowded walkway; the vocal and musical parallels between Ringing and Talus). Yeah, I’m irrevocably in love with this band and will miss them something fierce.
RIP, Song Jiwon. I only knew you a short time, but your kindness and honesty were a blessing.
72. Tyler, The Creator – Igor
As always, Tyler taps into some very real, very palpable emotion with his work. His composition skill cannot be denied. Anyone who’d have Tyler the MC and neglect Tyler the Composer have really missed the point of his Creator moniker. He’s an incredible musician and storyteller with a huge heart that has very obviously been broken, patched back together, broken, and patched back together again. As with his series beginning with Goblin and leading all the way up to last year’s Flower Boy, Tyler taps into the same emotional elements: heartbreak, loss of identity, abandonment. There is something a bit more triumphant here, but it seems he’s still got things to sort out, or at the very least get off his chest. Some demons he still has yet to exorcise. While it doesn’t hit as powerfully as Flower Boy, it still deals a mighty punch to the gut.
71. Bain – Around the Sun
Soothing music. Something easy to listen to and nestle in, book in hand, thick blankets cradling you. So smooth as to be utterly peaceful. This is really just a beautiful piece of deep house–laced R&B. Shades of lush, sensual R&B from the late-’70s, early-’80s. Hints of Sade and Seal wrapped in the smoky lead vocal. Just beautiful.
70. Such – Wide Nose Full Lips
The very first note of the album (opening track All I Want) transports the listener. This is a piece of music meant for the seasoned music lover. Simple in intent, but so complex musically, a maturity that’s easy and inescapably lovely. Lead single Before Dark is ethereal, dreamy, heady R&B. The type of music that makes an artist like Sade, and now Such, so intoxicating.
69. Arijit Singh – Broken Strings
Back in 2014, when my Top 100 list was only 25, one of the albums that impacted me the most was the soundtrack to film Haider. Arijit Singh was the biggest reason why. His track, Khul Kabhi was one of the most intoxicating songs I’d ever heard. Truly, it was so full of romance, longing. Singh’s voice… warm, sultry, inviting. Ever since I’d been waiting for him to release an album. So when I found out he’d released music this year, I jumped at the chance to listen to it. He’s as lovely a singer as I’d remembered him being. Each track on Broken Strings elevates the warmth of his voice to something truly grand. What a gift Arijit Singh is.
68. Incognito – Tomorrow’s New Dream
At this point Incognito is a steadfast part of my life. Their presence on this list should be no surprise to anyone who knows me. This is classic Incognito. Smooth. Lovely. The vocals, as always, are emotional, weighty, and just spectacular. Amazing music. The brilliance I’ve come to expect from the band and its collaborators.
67. Gallant – Sweet Insomnia
Honestly, there are just some artists who are too rich for daily consumption. Gallant is… dessert. Rich. Decadent. Self-indulgent. He’s the type of artist that gave rise to the sex and scandal of contemporary R&B while lyrically being something complete left of center that it’s hard to define him by traditional standards. Whether or not Sweet Insomnia has the nuance of Zebra or the overall elegance of Ology…? I don’t readily know. What I do know is that Gallant continues to pour his entire self into every project he does. Sweet Insomnia is sticky, delicate, a delightful layer of expensive sweetness.
66. Lamb – The Secret of Letting Go
I’m ashamed to say I haven’t been keeping up with Lamb. In fact, that last time I listened to them was with their 1999 album Fear of Four. 20 years. That’s one hell of a gap between my first falling in love and actually following up on my feelings. While a shame and a sin, I can honestly say coming back to them after so long meant hearing them anew, experiencing their incredible sound fresh. The Secret of Letting Go is certainly a removal from their gritty electronic sound of the late ’90s. However, the band still has all of its soul intact. It’s emotional, evocative, and incredibly visceral. Every emotion on this album is acute. You’re aware of every inch of your pain and pleasure as you listen to it. Even through a 20-year absence (on my part), Lamb is as marvelous as I remember.
65. EPISODE – [EPISODE 1]
Umm… where did all this soul come from?! Sometimes I am actually grateful for Instagram. This is one of those times. When Ms. Ann One posted a video of Horim, I went slack jawed with surprise. Upon hearing this collaborative EP, I remained utterly awestricken. This is true neo-soul. Horim has a voice that’s meant for the peaks, valleys, and utter sensuality of the genre. [EPISODE 1] is a wonderful piece of music. Unexpected and so utterly delicious! AND CAN WE TALK ABOUT BADU FOR TWO SECONDS!
64. Yeo Journey – Paradise
There’s a reason Yeo Journey is an artist I’ve been watching this year. His music is… There’s just something a little off kilter about it. His voice cracks and aches and yearns. The tone of his music is both soothing and somewhat sinister. He’s certainly an interesting addition to the onslaught of R&B that’s infiltrated South Korea in the past four or five years. Adding something a little different to the conversation. This album exemplifies just how much his brand of R&B differs from everyone else’s. Not drippy. Not pretty or sexy, really. It’s dark, brooding, heavy. I can’t help it. I love it when people explore the darker reaches of their genres.
63. Otoboke Beaver – ITEKOMA HITS
And this would be the reason I had my first mosh pit experience ever in life at last year’s SXSW! The ladies of Otoboke Beaver are ferocious! Wild. Crazy. Sexy as all hell. These women have more balls than approximately 95 percent of any of these so-called punk dudes out here. ITEKOMA HITS is the noise and anarchy I need in my life. YAS!
62. Joanna Wang – Love is Calling Me
I have missed this woman! You have no idea! When I discovered Joanna Wang had released an album last year, it almost brought me to tears. She’s focused her career more on her traditional roots, and it’s such a beautiful way to express who she truly is. Her music still retains the dreaminess from 2014’s Midnight Cinema with an added layer of something homier. But what initially caught me and will continue to get me every time is that voice! Ms. Wang’s smoky alto, the husky waver in her tone. The jazz-infused simplicity of her timbre. I live!
61. visionnaire – bloom.
Quite frankly, visionnaire is a one of the most naturally sensual artists I’ve ever come across. Yes, sensual, not sexual. He plays on every sense of the listener, caressing it until it’s supple with need. While that might seem overtly sexual to some, what I hear is tenderness, intimacy. He’s honest in his raw love of his black sistahs, and equally enamored of the prospect, push, and pull of love. Bloom. shows that in incredible fashion with music that pulses, lives and breathes as a sentient entity. Gorgeous work that fans of his have waited years for.